Owning It | Pati Robins
Rentals aren’t always about house-hopping every few years (or worse still, months). For some people, a short-term solution ends up being their long-term home. As part of our Owning It series, celebrating creative tenants, we visit Pati Robins in Cardiff to find out how she transformed her rented terrace to make it work for her family's needs.
Name: Pati Robins
Job: Photographer and full-time carer for her husband
Rental history: Previously rented in her native Poland
Lives with: Her husband Colin, daughter Olivia and their two dogs
Location: Cardiff, Wales
Set-up: Two-bedroom terraced house
Why did you decide to rent?
"We're not in a financial position to buy a home just yet, plus we're happy living here. It's out of the busy city centre which is good for my husband, Colin. He suffers from physical disabilities and mental health problems as a direct result from his time served in the army."
What are the benefits of renting?
"Some people say renting isn’t as secure as owning a home, but life can be unpredictable. We don't have to worry if something like our roof or boiler needs fixing. Buying a property isn't on our radar as we can’t afford it, and thinking about leaving this place to start afresh makes me sad."
And the negatives of renting?
"The idea that the home you’re living in isn’t really yours — although that hasn’t stopped me making it my own for the time we’re living here. But of course, not every landlord allows changes to a property's interior."
How laid-back is your landlord?
"I have a really amazing and understanding landlord. He made sure the house was adapted to fit my husband's needs. I have no idea if my landlord follows me on Instagram, but he has nothing to worry about, as I'm very respectful of him. I always get the green light before making any changes."
"I never thought I'd be renting the same place for 13 years. It was meant to be a temporary option, but life can give you unexpected twists and turns, so our dreams adapted. As a family we've poured our hearts and souls into this place — and I really love it!"
How have you made your home accessible?
"I made sure there's enough floor space for the wheelchair to pass. That's why all of our furniture looks off-centre! I built some pieces, like the dining and garden tables, so they're high enough for a wheelchair to fit [underneath]. I hide the ugly adaptations — like covering the bed-lift with lots of cushions and pillows. Out of sight, out of mind."
Is space and storage an issue?
"The house is 59 square metres in total, and at times I could do with a few more! But we love our small, wonky home just the way it is. Even though we're quite maximalist from the outside, we're minimal on the inside. We don't buy many clothes and constantly swap things out. We only buy what makes our hearts sing, as we cherish it more."
Use art to add interest to walls
"If you want dark walls but aren't allowed to paint, ask your landlord if you can use removable wallpaper. If not, go to town with accessories. Make your own abstract art and layer it on the walls. We use art as a distraction from features we don't like, such as the artexed wall and my husband's disability aid adaptations."
Don't be scared to DIY
"YouTube is a brilliant source for tutorials on using power tools. I was really afraid to use them, but I'm so glad I did. Don't get discouraged if you make a mistake — it happens, just learn from it. I still have DIY disasters! Sometimes a little restorative work or a change of hardware is all that's needed."
Disguise the eyesores
"Disabled people don't want to live in a hospital-like environment. My husband and I both think that adaptations — especially affordable ones — look awful, but there's not much choice. The stairlift was cream but I painted it black, and our walls went progressively darker — my husband feels calmer and more relaxed with them."
Finding things takes time
"Have a vision of how you'd like your place to look, then take your time. I did everything bit by bit, so for years none of the rooms were finished. Decorate for yourself and not to please others. If you and your family love the place you live in, that's all that matters."
Article written by: Natalie Wall
Photography by: Veerle Evens